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Posted June 25, 2016 by

The #1 student job search mistake

As an Associate Career Services Director for the University of Michigan and the CEO of Break into Tech, I’ve had the privilege to work with hundreds of students during the job search while trying to launch their careers. And it’s an area I’m particularly proud to support, having leveraged my own student experience to land roles at Apple, LinkedIn, and startups.

Photo by StockUnlimited.com

Photo by StockUnlimited.com

But the one thing that shocks me time and again is that 95% of students make the same mistake when it comes to landing a job. And no, it’s not a bad resume, or a poorly written cover letter or even weak interview skills. Instead, it’s that most basic trait:

Humility.

Yes, humility.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Huh? How hard could it be to act humble?”

But here’s the real deal. That same confidence is a handicap. Because it blinds students to just how hard it is to stay humble in a world where everyone always has to be on, to constantly present their best self.

As evidence, allow me to submit my experience as a Michigan alum working at LinkedIn:

  • Every single day during application season, I’d received at least one email from a current student who wanted to work in Silicon Valley
  • Usually, those emails started out: “Dear Jeremy, I’m XXX and I’d really like to work at LinkedIn…”
  • Eventually I’d get on the phone with these students, and they’d spend the first 15 minutes of the call telling me about themselves, and the last 15 minutes asking me if I could help them get a job.
  • Then, I’d never hear from them again.

On the other hand, about 2-3 times a year, the sequence would go very differently:

  • I’d get an email from a student well before application season that said: “Dear Jeremy, As a a Michigan student, I was so excited to come across your profile today. I can’t tell you how inspiring it was to find someone who’s walked your path. I know you must be really busy, but would you ever have a few minutes to share your story with me?”
  • When I got on the phone with them, we’d spend 15 minutes talking about my experience, followed by 15 minutes of them asking me for my advice about really tricky career questions.
  • Then they’d follow-up the next month to wish me a happy holiday or update me on campus. And they’d continue to do that each month with cool articles they found or little tidbits of school news.
  • Then, only when application season finally rolled around, would they ever ask for support during the application process.

And sure enough, about 2-3 times a year, I’d write an internal recommendation for a student, basically guaranteeing them an interview.

Now, any guesses which students I went to bat for?

Hopefully that illuminates two things about the job search:

BUT

  • You’ve got to network in the right way – the humble way.

Which means no:

  • Waiting until application season to reach out – you need to build relationships in advance; not at the last second.
  • Focusing all the attention on yourself – you need to build a real relationship; not just a transaction.
  • One shot networking – you need to build a relationship over time, not in a single phone call. This aids your job search.

So consider yourself warned. Yes, humility is critical to your job search success. But don’t assume it’s going to be easy. Instead, make it a priority and work hard at it. And then you can avoid the biggest mistake that’s trapped so many others!

Jeremy Schifeling, CEO of Break Into Tech

Jeremy Schifeling, CEO of Break Into Tech

Need more help networking and figuring out how to build great relationships on your way to finding a great entry-level job? College Recruiter can help. Keep reading our blog and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Jeremy Schifeling is the Founder + Chief Nerd at Break into Tech, a site for anyone who wants to land an awesome tech job, no matter their background. Get a free guide to the seven ultimate secrets that took Jeremy from school to Silicon Valley!

Posted May 03, 2016 by

5 onboarding tips for recent grads

So you just landed your first entry-level job and are graduating from college soon. Congratulations! You’re completing two major milestones simultaneously. After you celebrate, settle in, watch this short video hosted by Content Manager, Bethany Wallace, and read this brief article before showing up for your first day of work.

What is “onboarding?” Why should you care about it? And how should you prepare for it?

According to The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), onboarding is “the process by which new hires get adjusted to the social and performance aspects of their jobs quickly and smoothly, and learn the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and behaviors required to function effectively within an organization.” Thankfully, most companies no longer have a sink-or-swim mentality regarding new employees. They have recognized the costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training new employees, and they want to retain top candidates. In order to do so, they attempt to help new hires transition into the workplace as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

That’s the good news for you as a new employee.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have a part to play in the onboarding process, though. Here are five quick tips to ease the transition from recent grad to entry-level employee.


If the video is not playing or displaying properly click here.

1. Onboarding is a two-way street.

When you’re a new entry-level employee, you’ll have a reasonable amount of jitters on your first day of work (and beyond). You’ll feel concerned about what to wear, who to talk to, and how to behave during meetings. This is totally normal.

But if it eases your mind, just remember that onboarding—the process of acclimation—is a two-way street. Your employer is just as concerned about making a great first impression on YOU as you are about making a great first impression on her. Does your new employer treat you well on your first day? Did your new coworkers greet you or ignore you? Did your supervisor have materials and office supplies waiting for you, or did you have to wait for three days for a computer to be set up? These might seem like minor details, but they’re really not. Pay attention to the way you’re treated.

There are many common onboarding mistakes employers make that reflect negatively on the employer and affect their ability to retain great employees (like you!). The way your employer (not just your supervisor, but everyone in the company) treats you speaks volumes about the corporate culture and work environment. This helps you make your decision about whether this company is a good long-term fit for you as an employee.

2. Don’t glaze over during orientation.

Even though orientation at many companies can seem a little dry (okay, ahem, boring), the information covered can actually be important. While the information covered may not be presented in the most entertaining manner, it’s probably information you need to either perform your job well or to function well in the workplace. Either way, attempt to pay attention rather than zone out by playing with apps on your phone. Not only will you appear to be a more engaged employee to your new employer, but you’ll also retain more of the content covered (which might come in handy later when you’re expected to remember it).

3. Stick around during breaks/lunch.

It’s easy to give into the temptation to skip out during breaks or during lunch and dinner invitations, which are totally optional, but that’s when you have the opportunity to truly network with your coworkers and supervisors. Not only will you build genuine working relationships with others, but you’ll also learn more about company culture by attending these “off the record” events. You’ll see people’s true colors and be more likely to enjoy the next day’s “on the record” events if you connect well with your coworkers over dinner the night before.

4. Ask questions.

If you’re sitting through a training session or orientation workshop and feel confused or have a question, speak up! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many new hires often feel too intimidated to ask questions and wind up struggling in the workplace for weeks, or even months, as a result.

If you’re too intimidated to speak up during a large meeting, take notes and ask your supervisor questions later.

5. Get a mentor (or two).

Many companies now provide new employees, particularly recent college graduates, with official mentors. However, you may want to consider seeking out your own mentors. It’s never a bad idea to find one mentor in your company (someone with at least a few years of experience) and another mentor in your “dream” career field. This person might wind up being your career mentor for life, so select someone you truly admire and whose career path you may want to emulate. A career mentor can provide guidance from time to time and advice when times are tough in your career journey. It helps to hear an objective voice and encouraging word from someone you admire.

You’ve already done the tough part of landing a great entry-level job; just continue preparing yourself for those first few months of work as you transition into a brand new employee. You’re going to do a fabulous job.

For more onboarding tips, read our blog and connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.